Category Archives: Small Business
Too often, we fall back on the mantra “the customer is always right.”
But is that always true?
Here are our five ways of telling if you aren’t a good fit with your customer:
1. You dread you interactions
Your day is going fine. Everything is lovely. You get a call, check the number on the caller ID, and your whole mood deflates. It’s not just that some customers only call when there’s a problem. Even if that’s the case, a customer could still be a good fit.
No, these calls are the ones that never go anywhere. Your staff complains about working with them. They are never satisfied and likely never will be.
Cut them loose.
2. They complain about who they used to work with
If you have a customer who seems to have never had a pleasant experience with anyone they’ve worked with, be weary. You’ll likely not be any different. You’ll just be the guy they complain about to the next company they work with.
3. They threaten your company
If a customer raises hell about something, you should definitely take notice. Not everyone who has had a bad customer experience with your company is a bad customer. You should be paying attention to Yelp and other business review sites to always improve how you deal with your customers.
On the other hand, if a customer is threatening to cause trouble and raising a stink, yet still continue to work with you, maybe politely suggest they would be happier with someone else. The threat of a bad customer review is exploitative.
4. They don’t pay on time
It’s uncomfortable talking about money. It’s unacceptable to not get paid. One late payment isn’t the end of the world or the destruction of your company. But, if it’s a pattern of behavior, you can’t keep that customer on as a business expense.
5. They don’t respect your expertise
You’re good at what you do. If your customer can’t see that, maybe they should find someone else. You should also have respect for your customer. If you can’t nourish a relationship, they might be better served somewhere else.
Have you ever fired a customer? Why? Share in the comments!
One of the hardest things about owning a small business is getting the word out. When you’re small, it’s easy to go unnoticed. Without notice, you get no business. Here are our top 5 promotional ways to get the word out about your business.
1. Create a video
Let’s face it. In this day and age, it is not difficult to get your hands on a camera or simple video editing software. A YouTube channel can be a valuable asset, as it promotes the same social interaction as a social network. Creating videos with content that is relevant to your business and is something that offers helpful tips and advice is best.
But, even though the ultimate goal is to have a video that people will share, don’t get too focused on trying to create a share worthy video. Also, don’t give up. There’s no secret trick that makes a video go viral. You just have to keep putting yourself and your product out there until someone takes notice.
2. StumbleUpon Advertising
StumbleUpon is a web browser add-on that allows users to “stumble” on to random websites curated by other users. StumbleUpon normally has a more organic approach, but if you have a hard time getting visitors to your site, the ads are relatively inexpensive. As long as you’re creating good content, StumbleUpon will be a valuable asset as the people using the add-on already want to share and engage.
3. Create an infographic
Th great thing about being in your line of work is that it makes you an expert in your line of work, right? The Internet is a highly visual medium and the popularity of infographics only reinforces that notion. You’re an expert at what you do. Create an infographic that customers can use. No one knows it better than you.
4. Don’t forget LinkedIn
LinkedIn may not be the social network everyone’s talking about, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. LinkedIn targets professionals. While you can have a profile page, the real power of LinkedIn is creating a page for your business. It’s another way to gain followers and attention. And, given the nature of LinkedIn, these might be exactly the kind of influential people you want to interact with.
5. Apply online for business awards
If a movie wins an Oscar, are you more likely to see it? Maybe. If your business wins an award, will you gain more customers? Again, maybe. You might as well see if you qualify for an award. At the very least, you’ll have bragging rights.
What promotional ideas have you used in the past? What works? What doesn’t work? Share in the comments!
Let’s face it. At some point in your life, you’re going to have to go to a job interview. And, whether that job is for pizza delivery or the CEO position in a Fortune 500, some of those questions are going to be the same.
Here’s a list of the 20 most common job interview questions you need to be ready to answer.
1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
This is time for a pitch, not a narrative on your complete job history.
2. How did you hear about this position?
Make sure you mention any connections you have with the company.
3. What do you know about the company?
Make sure you do a little research before your interview so you have some things to say here.
4. Why do you want this job?
Show your enthusiasm and passion. Talk about why this position is perfect for you in particular.
5. Why should we hire you?
Again, focus on your passion and experience. If you don’t have any experience, find something else in your background that will make you stand out.
6. What are your strengths?
Focus on the positives; don’t use negative terms (like “I don’t” or “I can’t”), even if they turn into positives. Be honest. It’s not a game. Don’t try to figure out what the interviewer wants.
7. What do you consider to be your weakness?
Again, be honest. “I don’t have any weaknesses” isn’t true. If you have anecdotes, tell them how you plan on working on your weakness.
8. What is your greatest professional achievement?
Make sure you give them the situation and the assignment, so the interviewer has context for what you accomplished.
9. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
Like question 8, make sure you give the interviewer context.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Essentially, do you have realistic goals for your career, are you ambitious, and does the position you’re interviewing for fit into your long term career goals.
11. What’s your dream job?
Another question to discuss your goals and ambitions.
12. What other companies are you interviewing with?
This time, you should be more vague. Saw you are exploring other similar opportunities that utilize the same skills and talents.
13. Why are you leaving your current job?
Keep it positive.
14. What are you looking for in a new position?
What you’re looking for should line up with what the position offers.
15. What type of work environment do you prefer?
It should be the kind of environment the position offers.
16. What’s your management style?
This gives you the chance to show you know what kind of techniques are out there and the ability to modify to a situation.
17. How would your boss or coworkers describe you?
Try to find strengths you haven’t talked about already.
18. How do you deal with stress?
Specific examples of stressful situations help here.
19. What are your salary requirements?
There are places online where you can research what someone in the position would typically get. Try Glassdoor. Or, you can even Google what they typical salary is.
20. Do you have any questions for me?
Have a few things prepared that you want to ask.
What questions do you hear most often in interviews? How do you answer any of the questions above? Share in the comments!
First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. November 27, 2010 was the first ever Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is the day we celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.
More than 200 organizations have already joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday this year is on November 29th.
Entrepreneurs need to have a big skill set. You’re going to be running a business, with employees and investors and your own furniture and office space. You may not have to be an expert in all areas of entrepreneurship, but you should definitely hone your business skills before you get started. You’re going to be up in front of people, pitching, motivating, and explaining.
Here are our three ways to become a better speaker:
1. Ask a question that can’t be answered
Asking the audience a question can sometimes be a cheap gimmick. Is your audience supposed to yell out the answer? Are you going to answer your own question if they just wait? Who is this person and why do they want this information? But, if you ask an unanswerable question and admit you also don’t have the answer, it makes you more human. And, it might help you get your point across if you are seeking to answer the unanswerable.
The timing of pauses is an art form. If a pause is too short, it seems like you forgot something. Holding a pause for a long time shows it was intentional. Stop talking and hold that pause. It will make people pay attention. If they were distracted, you’ll reel them back in. It also gives you a bonus air of confidence.
3. You don’t have to always be closing
Not every speech or talk you make is a sale. Of course, when you’re pitching, that’s a different story, but even then, you don’t have to be dragging the conversation by the nose back to your product. Before you get into your sales pitch, make a different point. Find a human connection. If people like you as a person, they’ll probably like you as a business. Getting the sale isn’t the only thing in the world. It’s good to remember that every once in awhile.
What are your tips on becoming a better speaker? Share in the comments below!
You need to write a business plan before you get started with your business. It’s not just a document to pitch your idea to investors. It’s a way you get set goals and PLAN for the running of your business (funny how that works, isn’t it?). If you’ve never written a business plan or you’ve written three dozen, here are our 4 tips to remember when you write your business plan.
1. Cut the fluff
Remember when you were in high school and had to make that 5 page count? Remember how you pulled out the thesaurus and made every word as long as possible just to make the requirement? Even if you didn’t, somewhere in your past, you are guilty of pumping a paper with fluff. Be concise. Get to the point.
Plus, any potential investor will see through the fluff anyway. Don’t make them hunt through the clutter.
2. Be realistic
We all know that you have great expectations for your business. Great expectations don’t belong in your business plan. You need realistic expectations. I’m not trying to knock you off cloud 9, but if you’re putting your plan in front of potential investors, they’re going to want to see something plausible. Don’t try to sugar coat your numbers. If a realistic business plan looks like a mess, maybe you need to rethink how you’re organizing your company.
3. Break the template
It’s easy to go online, find a nice business plan template and fill in the blanks.
It’s okay to start with a template, but at some point, you need to incorporate some aspect of what makes you, your company, and your brand unique. Find a way to get that unique feel without pumping your plan with fluff.
4. Do your research
When you have the next big idea, you’re excited and want things to get moving. Don’t just jump into a business plan without doing your research. What are other people in your market doing? What do their numbers look like? What’s their business model? Another thing you can benefit from is looking to similar businesses that have failed. What did they do wrong? How do you plan to tackle the same monsters that defeated them? Even if answering all these questions doesn’t fit in a business plan, it’s still a good thing to know.
What are your business plan tips? What are things you would avoid? Share in the comments!
1. Energy costs
Do you work in an office? How old is it? When was the last time the insulation was updated? Do you turn all the lights off when you leave?
As a Texas based company, we know that you can’t get much work done in the heat. But, if you use heating or air-conditioning in your office, you should make sure your air-conditioning and heating units don’t have to work as hard when no one’s there. Turn the thermostat up or down when you leave and adjust it again in the morning when you get it. Make sure you turn off computers and lights when you leave. And, if you’re just starting out an office, think of investing in energy saving equipment, like more efficient monitors, modems, and even light bulbs.
As an entrepreneur, you are working with a limited budget. Before you go out and start hiring employees, take a look at the projects you want those employees to handle. Are they all permanent or long term? If not, you might want to hire out on contract rather than having a permanent employee.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs get a whole range of tax breaks, deductions, and benefits. We’ve mentioned some on this blog, like hiring your children. But, think about all the business expenses you incur, like travel, or business lunches, or conference fees. Are you making sure those are all reflected in your taxes? Take some time to research the benefits available to you and make sure you’re taking full advantage.
4. Shop around
If you find that you are in need of something for the office, don’t settle on the first price you find. If you’re looking for something like office furniture, you can always buy secondhand. If you need a modem or router, check more than one retailer. With the Internet, it’s easier than ever. You can also look for places that offer small business rewards programs or discounts.
What are some ways you save money around the office? What’s your biggest business expense you forgot to budget for? Share in the comments!